MODULE 7: Evaluating Information Sources:
Section 3 of 6, TERMINOLOGY (Part 1), page 1 of 1.


Scholarly, Academic, Peer-reviewed, Refereed

When your instructor uses the term journal; essentially what they are talking about are magazines (publications that contain articles), but the term magazine is best used to refer to a general/popular periodical (publication that is produced at a regular interval), whereas the term journal indicates a periodical of a more academic or scholarly nature.

Academic, scholarly, peer-reviewed, and refereed are terms used to identify the nature of journals (and the articles they contain). These terms boil down to mean “the good stuff”… something authoritative and substantial.

Comparing and contrasting scholarly/academic and non-scholarly/non-academic publications


Characteristics of scholarly or academic journals:

  • Usually not found on newsstands. Libraries and individuals in the field are typical subscribers.
  • Written by researchers, scholars, experts in the field, etc. Usually provides authors' qualifications/background.
  • Typically published by a scholarly professional association or university press.
  • The audiences for these articles are other researchers, professionals, or academics. The language of the articles assumes the reader has a background or special knowledge in the field.
  • Written to report on original research or in-depth analysis of an issue. Lengthy articles written in a sophisticated language.
  • Mostly text, may include charts or graphs. Seldom includes photos. Almost no advertising.
  • Contain footnotes, references, bibliographies, works cited, etc.
  • Report first hand information, analysis, or original research.

Examples of scholarly or academic journals:

Examples of academic/scholarly journals: Foreign Affairs, The Labor Lawyer, Current History, The Public Manager, African-American Review, California Management Review.

Examples of academic/scholarly journals that contain primarily original research: Journal of Consumer Research, Political Research Quarterly, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Applied Psychology, American Journal of Political Science.

Original research articles typically include sections for methodology, data, results, graphs/charts, and references.

Click here to view an example of an article reporting on original research in the field of psychology.

Click here to view an example of an article reporting on original research in the field of computer science.

Additional notes:
  • Keep in mind that although a given journal may be scholarly, 100% of the materials within a particular issue may not be, e.g., book reviews or editorials. You may need the aforementioned criteria (or just some common sense) to make that determination.
  • Many of the Troy University-provided journal databases allow the user to limit searches to peer-reviewed journals only.

Characteristics of non-scholarly or non-academic magazines:

  • The types of publications typically found on newsstands.
  • Usually read for entertainment or personal interest.
  • Written by a staff or freelance writer.
  • Usually published by commercial enterprises (not a scholarly society or group).
  • The audience is the general public. No special background or education is assumed.
  • Written to entertain or give current interest news. Usually short and in simple language.
  • Contain lots of advertising. Usually include pictures or photographs and are often slick in appearance.
  • Rarely provide footnotes or a bibliography.
  • Report on information second or third hand (not original investigation or research).

Examples of non-scholarly or non-academic journals:

Substantive news or general interest periodicals are an excellent source of background or summary information. Examples of such a publication: U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, Fortune, National Geographic, Aviation News and Space Technology.

Popular magazines may also be a source of background or summary information, but their primary focus is to entertain their readers and to promote the products of their advertisers. Examples: Time, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Road & Track, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan.

Examples of sensational magazines that have little or no value for typical academic research:

These supermarket tabloids include: National Examiner, Star, Weekly World News, Globe, Sun.

Question: How does that relate to journals being refereed or peer-reviewed?

Answer: Very simple! The referees are persons, assigned by the publisher of a journal, to judge whether or not an article which was submitted by the author for publication in the journal is worthy of inclusion. What qualifies these referees to judge the merits of the submitted work is that they are peers with the author in the given filed of study, for example, the persons reviewing articles for inclusion in a physics journal are highly-credentialed in the field of physics. Describing a journal as refereed or peer-reviewed means "The articles in the journal have been carefully reviewed by experts in the field who have judged the author and what they have written worthy of publication."


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